Inhibiting cancer

Research suggests that anti-obesity drugs might inhibit prostrate cancer growth.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 16, 2004 17:46 IST

A new research conducted at The Burnham Institute, California suggests that anti-obesity drugs might inhibit cancer growth.

Dr. Jeffrey Smith, a scientist, has discovered that orlistat, commonly prescribed as an anti-obesity drug inhibits tumours. Smith and his co-workers designed a proteomics screen based on monitoring the activity of a family of enzymes called serine
hydrolyases which are involved in metabolism.

They used their screen to compare normal prostate cells with prostate cancer cells and discovered that the prostate cancer cells are affected by an increased activity of fatty acid synthase. The screen also identified orlistat, marketed by Roche
as XenicalTM, as an inhibitor of fatty acid synthase.

Orlistat also inhibited tumor growth in mice. Further experiments confirmed that orlistat has no effect on normal prostate cells and no apparent side effects in the mice; it acts specifically as fatty acid synthase.

Fatty acid synthase activity is also upregulated in breast cancer and colon cancer cells as well, presenting the possibility of designing new treatments for these cancers based on inhibiting the enzyme's activity with orlistat or a new drug based on orlistat's inhibitory activity.

The method developed by Dr. Smith represents a quantum leap in drug discovery. So-called "activity-based" proteomics screening is a new frontier in medical research, based on applying information gleaned from the human genome project.

According to Dr. Smith,"This discovery with orlistat has given us a very nice wedge with which we can go in and perturb tumor cells and ask the question, 'What are the active targets, what are the other changes that take place when you inhibit fatty acid synthase?'"

"That will give us really good insights into the mechanism, and we anticipate that's going to reveal a whole swath of additional drug targets along this pathway. This is a big advance in the sense that we have an approved drug--approved for one indication-that has another target and another potential disease
indication, prostate cancer," he added.

First Published: Mar 16, 2004 17:46 IST